Prokofiev wrote his witty and affectionate homage to Haydn at a very unlikely time for such a light-hearted work: during the military catastrophe of World War I, the disintegration of the Czarist government, and the start of the Russian Revolution. In his autobiography, Prokofiev wrote: "It seemed to me that had Haydn lived in our day he would have retained his own style while accepting something of the new at the same time. That was the kind of symphony I wanted to write: A symphony in the classical style. And when I saw that my idea was beginning to work, I called it the Classical Symphony." Prokofiev completed the work on 10 September 1917. It was premiered six months later by the former Court Orchestra in Petrograd. Though the general model of the work is the Haydn or Mozart symphony, the traditional minuet is replaced by a gavotte.

Sir Georg Solti personified the elegance and impeccable tastefulness of Central European music-making for many years. Solti's remarkable partnership with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra began in 1954, when he first led the orchestra at the Ravinia Festival. After returning to conduct the ensemble several times during the following years, he was named Music Director in 1969 and held this post for a phenomenal 22 years. He is credited with greatly extending and enhancing the orchestra's worldwide reputation. This recording with the Chicago Symphony dates from the late 1970s and represents a mellower, more lyrically accented phase in the partnership between Solti and his orchestra. At its first telecast in the United States in 1979, the Chicago Sun-Times wrote that "these are remarkable hours, firstly because of the quality of the music and secondly because of the outstanding technical competence that went into this production. What's more, these productions convey much of the impact Solti makes on his audiences in his concerts